The Minister in China (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 3.]
Sir: In accordance with the Department’s instruction No. 78, of October 9, 1925,30 I have the honor to submit the following summary, with index,31 of events and conditions in China during December, 1927:
As the most outstanding characteristic of the year 1927 in China was Soviet Russian immixture in the internal affairs of the country, so also was the abortive communist uprising of December 11th at Canton, entailing as it did a severance of relations with the Soviet Government on the part of the Nationalist régime, the most significant single occurrence of the month under review.[Page 39]
Among other important consequences the break with Soviet Russia by the Southern elements gave rise, during the month, to the supposition, in view of the long established anti-communist policy of the Northern leaders, that the way might have been opened for negotiation between the Kuomintang and the Ankuochun. Little evidence was forthcoming, however, that this opportunity for reuniting the country would be capitalized in the near future and again the conclusion must be drawn that personal motives rather than abstract political principles are the cause of the present dissensions among those who seek to govern China.
Marshal Chang Tso-lin’s forebearing attitude toward the Soviet régime was not altered by the events in South China. It has been more circumspect than that of his Nationalist rivals by reason of Soviet interest in the Chinese Eastern Railway and the extensive and not easily guarded frontier separating the two countries.
Conditions in Canton
As indicated above a communist uprising took place in Canton during the month under review, which was said in Chinese circles there to have been the worst disaster that the city has suffered in recent times. Reports from the American Consul at Canton indicated that on the morning of December 11th a so-called peasants, workers, and soldiers army, 5,000 strong, seized control of the city. The rebels, which were the riff-raff workers of Canton, linked up with certain robber bands from the country districts and disarmed the police while the bulk of the dominant military clique’s troops were concentrating at outside points. The troops which were rushed to Canton succeeded in crushing the revolt on the morning of the 13th but the city had been given over to general looting for forty-eight hours and large sections of it were burnt.
The Legation was informed that on the 12th the situation began to look ominous for foreigners because of the expressed intention of the communists to deal with them after gaining control of the situation. It had seemed advisable to evacuate Americans from certain parts of Canton and Consul Huston and Commander Giffen of the U. S. S. Sacramento cooperated in evacuating for that day some fifty Americans and thirty-one other nationals.
After an examination of these occurrences Mr. Huston concluded that this effort on the part of the Russians to establish a government in Canton along Soviet lines differed from previous attempts in that the movement of December 11th was purely communistic and based upon the belief that the workers would rise and take control of the city. It seemed that in their initial speeches and proclamations the agitators promised every member of the proletariat who joined them [Page 40] $20 and a rifle, freedom to loot, freedom from debt, food, wealth, and a house to live in. Mr. Huston reported that, in spite of these extravagant offers in a city that boasted a union membership of some 300,000, the Russians were understood to have marshalled only 3,000 of the riff-raff workers of the city who, combined with a thousand or more persons belonging to peasant robber bands and about an equal number of so-called red troops which were bought over, constituted the “red guards.”
Mr. Huston apprised the Legation that at the crucial moment in the revolt, after they had obtained control of the city and after twenty-four hours of burning and looting, the so-called peasants and the soldiers deserted, taking their loot with them. Furthermore it appeared that a large number of troops failed to take part in the proletarian struggle, leaving the Soviet leaders and the workmen who had joined them to suffer execution at the hands of the incoming troops.
The Consul stated that the manner in which the communists allowed the reds to burn the city and in many instances to shoot the owners of the houses which the latter tried to save, aroused the fierce hatred of the Cantonese against both Russians and communists. He indicated that Canton’s retaliation was the shooting of hundreds, many undoubtedly innocent, together with the summary execution of some eight or nine Russians including a Soviet Vice Consul. On December 17th 600 Chinese were executed in one group and executions continued thereafter.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
On December 21st Mr. Huston telegraphed that the situation was becoming less tense and that it was expected that the Cantonese leader, Chang Fa-kwei, would resign and leave Canton, certain subordinates of Wang Ching-wei having already done so. It was reported at that time that Li Chai-sum, the Kwangsi military commander whom Chang Fa-kwei had ousted in November, was coming back in spite of the existence of opposition to his or to any other Kwangsi men’s taking over. It was the Legation’s understanding, however, that Chang Fa-kwei was still in Canton during the last week of December and it was rumored that he was preparing to resist Li Chai-sum’s return, which did not occur during the period covered by this report.
Events at Shanghai
Reverberations from the Canton coup were heard along the Yangtze and in most of the rest of China. On December 15th the American Consul General at Shanghai informed the Legation that he had that afternoon been handed, by the chief clerk of the Bureau of Foreign [Page 41] Affairs, a mandate of the Nanking Nationalist government, dated December 14th, announcing the severance of relations with Soviet Russia. The mandate set forth that the Nationalist government for sometime had been aware that Soviet Consulates and Soviet State Commercial Agencies in areas within its jurisdiction had been used as headquarters for red propaganda and as asylums for communists. It referred to the uprising at Canton as being mainly to be attributed to the fact that the communists had availed themselves of the Soviet Consulate and Soviet State Commercial Agencies as a base for their operations and it contained an expression of the fear that occurrences of a like nature might take place elsewhere. The recognition accorded to the Consuls of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic[s] stationed in the various provinces was accordingly withdrawn and the Soviet Commercial Agencies in the various provinces were ordered to suspend their functions.
In delivering this mandate the chief clerk informed Mr. Cunningham that he was on the point of delivering the passports for fifteen Soviet consular officers and their families, who had been given until December 21st to leave the country.
On December 23rd Mr. Cunningham telegraphed that the German Consul General at Shanghai, in accordance with arrangements made between Moscow and Berlin, would take over, on the 24th, the civil but not the political interests of the Soviet Consulate General.
Respecting conditions within the Kuomintang, Mr. Cunningham apprised the Legation that a meeting of twenty-nine members of the party, including Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Ching-wei, was held at the former’s residence in Shanghai on December 10th when resolutions were passed calling for Chiang’s reinstatement as Generalissimo, and for the convening of the fourth plenary session of the Kuomintang at Nanking, from January 1st to 16th, 1928. Mr. Cunningham stated that it was significant that most of the members of the Nanking group refrained from attending the meeting and that they consequently had no voice in framing the resolutions.
On December 28th the Consul General reported that Chiang Kaishek had stated that he would accept the position of Generalissimo and that he expected to capture Peking within three months. It appeared that Chiang was formally to take office during the first week of January, whereupon C. C. Wu would resign from the cabinet, probably being replaced by Huang Fu, in recognition of Feng Yuhsiang’s growing power in Nanking. C. T. Wang’s name was also mentioned for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Apparently the secession of the Wuhan faction from Chiang’s support was increasingly evident, which left Chiang’s party in control only of Chekiang and Kiangsu. Mr. Cunningham added that Wang Chiang-wei had already [Page 42] resigned and that the re-alignment outlined was felt to constitute a backward step in party government, and to spell ruin for any existing hopes of party unity.
Conditions in Hankow
As indicated in the Legation’s monthly report for November, Nanking forces occupied Hankow at the end of that month. On December 1st the Legation was apprised by the Hankow Consulate General that Hu Tsung-tu, the new garrison commander there, probably would be appointed chairman of a Hupeh Provincial Government and that the result of this movement would be to render superfluous the Hunan-Hupeh Provincial Political Affairs Committee, of which General Chen Chien was to be the chairman, but about which no official announcement had yet been made. This plan did not materialize. In a telegram of December 6th Mr. Lockhart intimated that there was growing friction between Generals Hu Tsung-tu and Chen Chien over the question of the control of Hupeh. Six days later the Consul General received and filed without acknowledgment the official notification of the establishment of the Hunan-Hupeh Provincial Political Affairs Committee, with General Chen Chien as chairman, an organization nominally supreme in those two provinces but with little authority. Hu Tsung-tu, the Wuhan garrison commander, controlled that area while Chen Chien was reported during December to be heavily engaged in Hunan with the forces of Ho Chien, who controlled Changsha.
Regarding conditions at Ichang and from Ichang to Wanhsien, Mr. Lockhart reported on December 23rd that a superficial improvement was manifest by reason of a more complete control of the region by Yang Sen and the temporary absence of war preparations.
In the same telegram Mr. Lockhart stated that according to reliable reports from Chungking conditions there were tranquil and the attitude of the Chinese friendly to all foreigners. He added, however, that these same reports showed that Americans and other extraterritorial foreigners had been forced to subscribe to a military loan, this constituting a further step in the break-down of their extraterritorial status in an area where tranquillity and friendliness had no better guarantee than that afforded by transient and localized military authority.
Adverting to the Canton coup and its effects, Mr. Lockhart was informed by the Commissioner of Foreign Affairs on December 15th that the latter had received orders from Nanking to close the Soviet Consulate at Hankow and to arrest the communists. On the morning of the 16th the Soviet Consulate accordingly was raided by several hundred Chinese troops and a large number of arrests of [Page 43] communists at the Consulate and in the concessions and in the native city was made, the Soviet Consul General, his staff and his wife, being temporarily given refuge at the residence of the Commissioner of Foreign Affairs before deportation. Mr. Lockhart reported that the raid was conducted in an orderly fashion, and that no firing had occurred except accidental discharges of fire arms. The Soviet Consulate was subsequently occupied by the Wuhan garrison commander.
According to reports by the Military Attaché to the Legation, from which this section is taken, serious fighting was confined in December, as in November, to North China. Early in the month Feng Yu-hsiang was exerting pressure against the Chihli-Shantung armies along the Lunghai railway and by the 5th he seemed on the point of gaining a decisive victory in the capture of Hsuchowfu, the junction point of the Lunghai and Tsin-Pu railways. He was repulsed, but the Nanking armies advanced upon the same point immediately thereafter and Hsuchow finally fell into Nationalist hands on December 16th. Its capture enforced on the Northerners the abandonment of all points on the Lunghai railway including Haichow, which was evacuated on the 19th. The capture of Hsuchow was significant in that it entailed the establishment of practicable contact between the Kuominchun and the Nationalist armies in Kiangsu and it appears to have been followed by the prompt reiteration of Feng Yu-hsiang’s allegiance to the Nanking Government and inferentially to Chiang Kai-shek.
While at the end of December only slight forces were opposed to a Nationalist advance in East Shantung all the way to the Kiaochow-Tsinan railway, this was not felt to be a matter of moment in view of poor communications and other obstacles presented to a winter campaign. On the Tsin-Pu front the Chihli-Shantung line was established at Hanchwang, near which point the railway crosses the Grand Canal, whence it ran west to the Grand Canal, it apparently being planned to hold the line of the canal itself all the way from Tsining to Tehchow. At the end of the month the Tsining area was the scene of heavy pressure by Feng Yu-hsiang, who launched an offensive from the vicinity of Tsaochow on or about the 20th of December which brought him almost to the walls of Tsining by the 23rd. There the Chihli-Shantung forces held, their intrinsic weakness being counterbalanced by Feng’s shortage of munitions, and by the 27th of December the Kuominchun had fallen back towards Tsaochow.
Little activity is to be recorded in the Fengtien-Shansi war, the two armies seeming to have gone into winter quarters, with Fengtien probably withdrawing to the entrance passes of the mountain barrier. On the 28th a peace delegation from Yen Hsi-shan arrived in Peking, but [Page 44] their negotiations apparently were not brought to a definite conclusion. It was felt, however, that the growth of Feng Yu-hsiang’s influence at Nanking might facilitate the ultimate conclusion of an agreement between these two contestants. The town of Chochow still held out at the end of December although negotiations for its surrender to the forces of Marshal Chang Tso-lin were in progress.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I have [etc.]